Compassionate individuals in Seattle and around the globe saved millions of lives when Ebola pandemic threatened West Africa.

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ONE year ago, the world faced the frightening prospect of a global Ebola pandemic that threatened to kill millions of people in West Africa and around the world. Thousands of cases were confirmed in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, and cases of the disease were eventually confirmed in countries as far away as Spain, Italy and the United States.

At the height of the Ebola scare, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta estimated that if the international community did not expand its response to the outbreak, Liberia and Sierra Leone could face 1.4 million infections before the end of January 2015.

Thankfully, the international community responded.

Liberia President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia will speak at the sold-out 11th Annual Gala for Global Health hosted by the Center for Infectious Disease Research on Oct. 3 at the Hyatt Regency Bellevue.

The United States and other countries around the world committed billions of dollars in aid and deployed thousands of troops and medical personnel to slow the spread of the disease.

Philanthropists and private companies also joined the fight. Seattleite and Microsoft co-founder Paul G. Allen committed $100 million to stop Ebola, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation pledged $50 million and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg gave $25 million. Google launched a public donation matching program that helped raise a total of $7.5 million to combat the deadly contagion.

Compassionate individuals around the globe also banded together to help relief efforts. The Seattle-area Liberian American community worked to raise money and collect supplies that aided the response in West Africa.

The persistence of the Ebola virus underscores that we, as globally connected people, cannot slow down...”

Thanks to the courageous work of local medical personnel in Liberia and neighboring countries, volunteers from East and Southern Africa, and the significant international response, the Ebola outbreak has slowed. To date, there have been approximately 30,000 confirmed cases of the Ebola virus disease reported worldwide and about 11,000 confirmed deaths.

While Liberia has been declared Ebola-free, there are still new cases surfacing in Guinea and Sierra Leone. The persistence of the Ebola virus underscores that we, as globally connected people, cannot slow down when it comes to improving health systems and finding new treatments and cures for Ebola and other devastating infectious diseases.

The United States is at the forefront of this global effort, and Washington state specifically has become an international hub for global-health research and humanitarian aid. Seattle alone is home to some of the most innovative and well-known organizations in the world, including the Center for Infectious Disease Research, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Allen Institute for Brain Science, the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and PATH.

With more than 550 organizations in Washington performing pioneering scientific research, this region of the world continues to push the envelope in discovering and creating groundbreaking treatments, vaccines and cures that are critical in combating Ebola, AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and other infectious diseases that kill millions of people in Liberia, West Africa and around the world every year.

In fact, the need for new treatments and cures has never been greater. According to the World Health Organization’s latest numbers, in Liberia alone there were 30,000 individuals living with HIV and AIDS, 13,000 cases of tuberculosis and 1.2 million people infected with malaria.

These numbers don’t end at the Liberian border. Within the United States, there are 1.2 million people living with HIV and AIDS and 9,593 cases of tuberculosis in 2013. Although malaria was eliminated in the U.S. more than 60 years ago, there are 1,500 to 2,000 reported cases each year affecting Americans, most of whom have recently been traveling.

With these numbers, it is clear that we have to keep innovating and making advances in the ways we combat infectious diseases.

Liberia and other countries facing the scourge of infectious diseases are focused on keeping hospitals and treatment centers running, as well as providing clean water and sanitation facilities for patients to keep the diseases from spreading. But these efforts don’t eradicate disease, they only slow the spread of infection.

It is only with the support of the international community and leading research organizations — like the ones found here in Washington state — that we will be able to find the treatments, vaccines and cures necessary to rid the world of infectious diseases and save millions of lives.